Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Asylum seekers flock to EU safe haven

Just over 300,000 asylum applicants registered in Europe last year, up from 259,000 in 2010, the EU's statistical office, Eurostat, revealed on Friday (23 March).

The vast majority registered in France, Germany and Italy. Most came from Afghanistan and Russia. Altogether, some 90 percent were new applicants, while the remaining were repeat applicants.

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  • Around 300,000 asylum seekers registered in Europe in 2011 (Photo: wikipedia)

Fewer than 10,000 asylum seekers registered in Greece, but Greece's management of its border crossing with Turkey has caused resentment in some of the larger member states.

Both Germany and Austria are pressing Athens to properly secure a 180-km river, its natural border with Turkey.

"The [Greek] border is open like a barn door. The pressure on Greece must be increased ... It cannot be that a member state which does not do its homework gets away with it scot-free," said Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner earlier this month.

The border with Turkey is for the most part patrolled by Greek authorities with assistance from Frontex, the EU's border agency. In February, the Greeks started building a 12.6-km-long razor wire-topped fence in zone where the river loops into Turkey.

Around 6,000 were crossing the Greek-Turkish border every month last summer. In January, the figure dropped to 2,800 according to Frontex. Many come from Afghanistan, trekking their way across Turkey before making their final way into Greece.

Suffering from a severe lack of resources and manpower, the reception of asylum seekers in Greece is dire. German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich also said that Greece has so far only hired 11 out of 300 extra immigration officials.

"The question is still open on what happens when a country is not in a position to sufficiently safeguard its borders - as we are currently experiencing in Greece," said Friedrich earlier this month.

Every Saturday morning, large lines of around 100 asylum seekers, including women and children, stand outside Athen's Aliens Police Directorate hoping to get registered.

Understaffed, the Greek police can only register 20 at a time, according to the United Nations refugee agency. The rest scatter only to repeat the ritual the following week.

The EU is aiming to introduce a new common asylum system (CEAS) before the end of the year.

In December, EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said solidarity is key to Europe's fragmented asylum seeker system. But the spat with Greece could jeapordise the CEAS project.

The CEAS aims to standardize asylum procedures and better disperse the asylum applicants throughout the bloc. Last year, 75 percent of all asylum applicants were made in only six member states.

Some member states are now unwilling to participate in the CEAS until Greece can fully secure its borders and follow proper asylum procedures, reports Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

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